The annual Woodlands Stud sponsored harness racing drivers challenge has undergone many changes over the years. Initially it featured a provincial championship, then a Trans-Tasman component, more recently a border rivalry between the North and South of the Waitaki and this year it takes on a new form with the Downbytheseaside Battle of the Sexes Challenge at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill on Wednesday 25 November.
With so many top lady drivers emerging in the sport the time was right for a Battle Of The Sexes Challenge and two quality teams have been assembled to fight it out for both individual honours and team bragging rights on the day.
The Ladies Team features Sam Ottley, fourth in last year’s N.Z. Drivers Premiership and well placed again early in the 2020/2021 season. Ottley reined 68 winners last season and already has over 25 this season. Joining her in the Ladies Team are Sheree Tomlinson, a winner of the Dominion Handicap with Amaretto Sun at the age of 19, and winner of both the 2018 Garrard’s Australasian Young Drivers Championship and the individual trophy at this event last year. Sheree’s sister Kerryn, winner of the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship, joins her along with Sarah O’Reilly, the 2019 Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship. Top local ladies Kirstin Barclay and Ellie Barron who boast over 300 wins between them complete the team.
The Men’s Team is spearheaded by Blair Orange who topped the premiership last season with 219 wins and is one of a select group to have driven over 2000 winners in this country. Alongside Orange are local drivers Nathan Williamson, winner of over 7 million dollars in stakes during his career and a twelve-time winner of the Southland Drivers Premiership and Brent Barclay, winner of over 770 races and a three-time winner of the Southland Drivers Premiership. John Morrison – a two-time winner of the New Zealand Junior Driving Premiership plus Mark Hurrell, who has amassed 90 winning drives in just five seasons are also on board.
The Men’s team is completed by Ricky May who is closing in on 3000 winners and when he does so will become just the third driver to achieve this. May has reined seven New Zealand Cup winners and has only missed one of these Drivers Challenge events since they were instigated in the early 1980’s. May collapsed in the sulky at Omakau on 2 January this year and has made a miraculous comeback and it is entirely appropriate that one of those credited with saving him, Ellie Barron, is in the rival team.
Racing is scheduled to commence at 2.00pm and included in the eight races programmed are four scoring heats for the Downbytheseaside Battle Of The Sexes Drivers Challenge. Racing continues until the last race at 6.06pm so there is a great opportunity to stop in and catch some action even after work.
Points will be allocated as follows for each heat – 1st 10, 2nd 7, 3rd 5, 4th 3, 5th 1 and points scored will go to both the individual tally in the challenge and the team total.